Winless Cleveland Browns and Coach Jackson Continue Historical Slide
Now that we've enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner and dessert, it's time to knock the stuffing out of the turkeys. That's plural, as the Cleveland Browns, coach Hue Jackson and quarterack DeShone Kizer make up this year's terrible and troubled trio. Despite the Dallas Cowboys recent slide and struggles falling from 13-3 last year to now 5-6 and out of the playoffs this year, that doesn't even come close to the clueless concoction in Cleveland with management, coaching, player personnel and performance as the Browns continue to stink up the league.
Many readers remember when the Cincinnati Bengals were the laughingstock of the NFL. For over a decade, the Bengals, or 'Bungles' as they were referred to, were the league's biggest losers. From 1991 through 2002, the Cincinnati Bengals never had a winning record. They won 3 games in a season three times, twice had 4-win seasons and were 2-14 in 2002. That's when Marvin Lewis came aboard as head coach and guided Cincinnati to a pair of 8-8 seasons the next two years and their first winning record and division title in 15 years in 2005 going 11-5. So Lewis made an immediate difference, changed the culture and laughingstock losing organization into a winner in three years. He would coach the Bengals to five straight playoff appearances from 2011-2015. However, Lewis has never won a playoff game, going 0-7 during his tenure. He may get fired following the 2017 season after back-to-back losing seasons.
Which brings us back to the bottom of the barrel Cleveland Browns. And it's even uglier. From the owner and general manager down to the coaches and players, this organization is a complete cluster of incompetence. Now 1-25 over the last two seasons under second year head coach Hugh Jackson, the teams sixth head coach since 2008, is it really possible that Jackson will still be the Browns coach into the 2018 season? Jackson was the Oakland Raiders head coach for one season in 2011 and was fired following an 8-8 season. That team led the league in penalties and penalty yards. That's often a reflection on the coaching, or a lack of discipline or even respect.
Jackson moved on to become the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, and has held the same position for other NFL teams. A former QB himself as a player, Jackson has been calling the offensive plays for the Browns for two seasons while apparently moonlighting as the head coach. How's he doing? If the head coach is also in charge of personnel, calling plays, involved in the draft, and decisions on players to bring in as free agents or trades, it's clear that Jackson has been a complete failure. Certainly as a coach, leader and someone you can count on to make a difference. Some head coaches are just better coordinators, and it's clear that Jackson is proving that's the case again. Recent Browns head coaches that were fired but have had success as coordinators include Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini and Pat Shumur, who's currently doing a great job calling the plays as the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. The last coach to win in Cleveland was Marty Schottenheimer (44-27) in the 1980's. Even Bill Belichick (36-44) failed as the Browns head coach in the 1990's. Butch Davis (24-34) couldn't win in 3+ seasons starting in 2001. Since then it's been one losing season after another, but never anything like the 2-year-run of coach Hue Jackson.
Last year Jackson brought in QB Robert Griffin III. A previous No. 2 draft pick overall who has been a bust. This year they added Brock Osweiler, who they cut during training camp. Jackson oversaw the draft last year of two QB's selected by the Browns, Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, both former Pac-12 starters. Kessler actually posted acceptable stats during eight starts last year while posting a QB rating of 92.3. He replaced the injured Josh McCown midway through the season, and McCown was released and now starts for the New York Jets. And who could forget when the Browns drafted QB Johnny Manziel in the first round of the 2014 draft? He's now out of the league.
None of the QB's on this year's roster could beat out the coach's pet, 2nd round draft pick DeShone Kizer. Kizer is beyond awful, and Jackson and QB coach David Lee even said late during preseason that Kizer was not ready to be a starting NFL quarterback. Yet with some of the worst stats and performance seen by an NFL QB over a half season, Jackson continues to play Kizer, which is a complete injustice to the rest of the team. During the preseason they said Kizer was smart, bright and they loved is test scores. Well, Kizer's QB rating is 54.0 through nine starts. That folks is dreadful. He's completing 52% of his passes for 5.5 yards per pass with 5 TDs and 14 INTs. With nearly 300 pass attempts under his belt as a pro quarterback, Kizer has not had a completed pass go for more than 40 yards.
Recent articles and reports from the Browns beat writers show that coach Jackson doesn't want to discuss whether the Brown's plan is working. That plan, with the league's youngest roster, is a complete rebuild which he does not endorse. Rather than post an even longer article with many of Jackson's ridiculous comments and quotes, just google some of the articles, including some from last season when Jackson stopped calling the offensive plays out of frustration. The team was 0-7. And it's gotten much worse. He was quoted recently as saying,
"I'm not interested in talking about a plan. I'm not interested in a plan." Sounds like a guy you want as a head coach, preparing your team and putting together a game play, hu? You have to read more to see just how incompetent this coach is. Jackson supposedly built his reputation as a quarterback expert and offensive coordinator. He won't talk about a plan, and struggles to give voice to his embarrassing record as the Browns head coach (1-25). He won't give up play calling duties, or replace a rookie QB who is so out of his league it's disgraceful.
Argue all you want that Kizer needs to play and learn. But how fair is that to the other 11 guys that start on each side of the ball, and the entire team that is practicing and playing in the games? This if pro football. Not college football or basketball where a coach is often brought in to rebuilding situations and has to recruit and get players to learn his systems.
Certainly there are rebuilding situations in pro football, and the Rams have quickly done so under a new head coach this year. The San Francisco 49ers (1-9) qualify as such, but the players had to learn new systems under first year, first time head coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff. Yet the 49ers are significantly more competitive than the Browns, and San Francisco has lost five games by 3-points or less including two in overtime while going 5-5 ATS this season. And their own rookie quarterback, C. J. Beathard, a 3rd round draft pick, has started the last five games while posting a 70.8 QB rating. That's not good, but his stats are still much better than Kizer, and Beathard plays in a more complex offensive system with arguably a worse offensive line and defense while facing a much tougher schedule. The 49ers play hard, are coached better and improving. Can you say that about the Browns?
San Francisco also recently traded for a better QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, who was a free agent in New England at the end of this season. Reports out of Cleveland were that the Browns coaching staff was very upset they did not get Garappolo before the trade deadline, and note Cleveland had far more top draft picks to offer New England. Was this another coaching and management blunder? Well, it certainly was another inexcusable organization blunder when the Browns backup plan at the trade deadline fell through also, as Cleveland agreed to a trade for Cincinnati QB AJ McCarron, but the deal fell through because the Browns failed to notify the league and turn their paperwork in on time by the 4pm deadline Oct. 31. You can't make this stuff up.
The Browns coaching, quarterback(s) and additional questionable draft choices in recent seasons shows the ineptitude that continues in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Browns will never win a championship or win at a consistent level with DeShone Kizer as the quarterback, and if the organization has a coach that is involved in those draft decisions and then continues to play an incapable quarterback who should be on the practice squad or holding a clipboard, what message is that sending to the team? It's a complete injustice to the other players and starters.
The Browns are 0-10 this season, and completely not competitive while going 2-8 ATS. Six losses have been by double digits. So they are underperforming to point spreads which are set by the linemaker and sportsbooks from historical situations, power ratings and market perception and wagers. Even with the money consistently bet against the Browns and Cleveland getting extra points in the line, they continue to fail miserably.
I decided I could not, and would not bet on the Browns this season after reading the comments I noted about Kizer in the preseason, and then watching his performances this season. Even with some historically strong betting situations playing on winless teams like the Browns after week 5 or 6, the Browns continue to make history themselves. As in the worst ever. This is not an offensive line problem, and it's certainly not a defensive problem, as the Browns have ranked top-10 on defense all season and have been strong against the run. The long awaited return of wide receiver Josh Gordon is not going to suddenly solve the Browns problems. The winless record shows that there is a lack of cohesion, chemistry, coaching and competency, and of course absolute crappy quarterback play.
I started the season by posting four underdog plays per week with analysis before being forced to take a break after week 6. I had gone 16-8 ATS picking underdogs, and you may recall in Week 5 when I wrote about the Browns vs. Jets match-up, when the Browns were actually a very slight favorite. We played the Jets and won, and the Browns losing, mind-boggling mistakes and poor performances have continued.
If Hugh Jackson is retained as coach following this season, and DeShone Kizer continues as the quarterback, you'll have plenty of furious fans and people wondering how that can happen as other head coaching jobs become available. Teams like New York (Jets and Giants), Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay and Chicago are struggling badly this season and some of those head coaches will be fired. The Cleveland Browns fans have had their patience tested for nearly 20 years, but they are more exasperated than ever, many of them with coach Hue Jackson.
Offshore sportsbook Bovada posted the odds of the Browns going winless this season following their most recent loss at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 19-7. In that game. Cleveland had five turnovers, four from QB Kizer, including three in the fourth quarter when the Browns trailed just 10-7. His fumble in the end zone for a Jaguars touchdown in the final 90 seconds was yet another Browns blowup that cost Browns bettors. Beyond belief, until you realize it is in fact the Browns.
Will the Browns go 0-16?
The Browns remaining schedule:
at Cincinnati (4-6)
at LA Chargers (4-6)
vs Green Bay (5-5)
vs Baltimore (5-5)
at Chicago (3-7)
at Pittsburgh (8-2)
It really doesn't matter if the Browns win a game, although I actually believe they can still win 1 or 2 games this season. I'm just not betting on it, as no team, coach or quarterback finds a way to mess things up more than the Browns. Cleveland may well draft another QB at the top of next year's draft, and it appears there is more top quality quarterbacks available. Just don't let coach Jackson be involved.
Blow up the Browns. Again.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay